by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Stephan Bonnar returns to the Octagon on Saturday night against Eric “Red” Schafer at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
In Bonnar’s last fight, at Ultimate Fighting Championship 73 in July, he made short work of Mike Nickels by submitting him with a rear naked choke early in the first round.
He is of course remembered for his legendary battle with Forrest Griffin on the finale of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” It’s been two-and-a-half years since that epic fight that many have said put mixed martial arts on the map.
“It seems like yesterday,” Bonnar reflected. “Watching the show brings back memories. It is hard to believe though. I just turned thirty. I got old.”
After his close fight with Griffin, “The American Psycho” went on a three-fight win streak defeating Sam Hoger, James Irvin and Keith Jardine. It seemed like he was climbing up the ladder in the light heavyweight division until he hit a roadblock named Rashad Evans.
Evans tactically took him down at will and earned the victory. After that fight, Bonnar would once again meet his rival Forrest Griffin in a rematch at UFC 62. Unfortunately for him, Griffin would outpoint him and once again earn the nod.
Perhaps even more devastating than the loss to Griffin was the fact that Bonnar had tested positive for an anabolic agent that saw him suspended for nine months. Bonnar came back firing in his return fight against Nickels. He’s ready to keep the momentum going and he’s even joined Griffin at Xtreme Couture to enhance his training.
“It’s some good sparring,” Bonnar said of his new training facility. “It definitely gets you ready for a fight. It’s definitely good work.”
Not only does he train with Griffin, but also an assortment of other great partners that have all come to the new Mecca of training in Las Vegas. One of those partners is none other than “The Natural” Randy Couture.
“That guy just always wows me. He first did it when he fought Vitor Belfort. I didn’t think he’d win that fight. Then he beat Liddell and beat Ortiz. Then he beats Sylvia. Then he beat Gonzaga. It’s just all these crazy moments.”
Bonnar has been ready to go since his fight with Nickels and he can’t wait to get in the Octagon this weekend.
“I’ve been ready to fight for a while. It’s all great to get back in there and get a win, get out of there healthy. I was actually hoping I could get on the very next show. It’s good to get back in there. I feel like it’s been a long camp.”
Schafer last saw action in a losing effort to Michael Bisping back in December. He put up a very tough fight before succumbing to some devastating strikes. Bonnar has watched the tapes though and is ready for whatever Schafer brings.
A win for Bonnar on Saturday night will be one step higher up the ladder of the light heavyweight division, which in the last few months has been thrown for a loop. He isn’t taking Schafer lightly, though, and knows that he’ll need a solid game plan to come out with the win.
“It’s pretty obvious. I’ll try to keep it on my feet. Hit him with shots. His best chance of winning is on the ground. I expect a stoppage in the second round.”